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Sheetz coming to town

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
Holy Sheetz!
The popular convenience store known for cheap gas and food you can order at the pump is coming to Salisbury.
City Council on Tuesday approved a new conditional district overlay to allow the 6,100-square-foot fueling station and car wash at the corner of Old Concord Road and Jake Alexander, near the Farmhouse restaurant.
Council voted unanimously for the overlay, despite opposition from three property owners concerned with storm-water runoff, a 14-foot retaining wall and the location of a Dumpster.
“We wish we could make everything perfect,” Mayor Susan Kluttz said. “We do very much want this business.”
Sheetz stores employ on average 44 full-time and part-time employees, a company official said. Benefits include contributions to a 401K, college tuition reimbursement and more.
The Sheetz family, which founded the chain in 1952 in Altoona, Penn., compromised on site and building plans to meet a variety of local, state and federal regulations for the Salisbury location, which includes a creek.
“This is not our prototype layout,” project manager John Maxwell said. “They are excited about coming to Salisbury and made some concessions architecturally.”
For safety, cashiers needed a better view of gas pumps and the car wash, so the store will not face the road as city code usually requires.
Because motorists and pedestrians on Old Concord Road will see the back of the building, the company agreed to extensive enhancements, including brick facade, large windows, awnings, landscaping and an outdoor dining area.
Owners also will install sidewalks, trees and shrubs.
“They did a really fine job of making improvements architecturally for the situation they were faced with,” City Planner Preston Mitchell said.
Every aspect of the site plan was determined by rules and regulations, Sheetz architect Samuel Smith said.
“There is a reason why everything is where it is,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, a lot of those reasons were not our choices.”
From the city of Salisbury to N.C. DOT to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the stream, “this is the site plan that’s left after everything is satisfied,” he said.
But several neighbors remain unsatisfied.
Sisters Sandra Honeycutt and Linda Overcash own a rental house that will stand a few yards from the store’s Dumpster and expressed concern for their tenants.
Several council members suggested moving the Dumpster but ultimately backed down, convinced by company officials the trash container could stand only in that location.
“If that is the only place that it can exist, there are other benefits that outweigh the negative,” council member Brian Miller said.
A 9-foot brick wall will surround the container, and tenants can use the city’s noise ordinance to insure the Dumpster is not emptied in the early morning, Kluttz said.
Mark Honeycutt, son of Sandra Honeycutt and owner of an adjacent business, complained that Sheetz plans to raise the elevation of the property 5 feet to meet Jake Alexander Boulevard and Old Concord Road, which will require a 14- to 15-foot retaining wall at the back and side of the property.
“I believe it’s overkill,” said Honeycutt, who said he built the Farmhouse restaurant and other area businesses without raising the elevation.
Tom Overcash, husband of Linda Overcash, asked council members to send the matter to a committee. They declined.
Kluttz acknowledged the complexity of the site plan.
“This may be the best we can do,” she said.
Sheetz will purchase 2.2 acres, including two homes, which will be demolished.
“Thank God for Sheetz,” said Brenda Wheeler, who will sell her house at 1405 Old Concord Road to the company.
Wheeler has been trying to sell her home for nine years. It’s one of the few residences left in the industrial area.
Pam Lippard said her mother, who lives next door, also is grateful for Sheetz.
Opponents said they wanted assurances that storm water will not drain onto their property.
“The water will all go to same place it goes today,” City Engineer Dan Mikkelson said. “None will go to residential property next door.”
A large settling basin at the back of the property, where storm water will collect before washing into the creek, will produce cleaner runoff, he said.
Lowering the retaining wall “would require quite a bit more engineering,” Mikkelson said.
Council member Paul Woodson said other businesses have high retaining walls, including Walgreens on East Innes Street, that are not offensive.
Landscaping surrounding both the retaining wall and settling pond will help, Miller said.
Council member William “Pete” Kennedy said the area is zoned commercial and Council should treat it as such.
“I would not want to see a developer walk away when we are talking about a Dumpster,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said her family always tries to find a Sheetz while traveling.
During an Internet search, she could find little criticism of the company.
“Someone got a bad pickle on a sub,” she said. “That’s about the worst I could find.”
Blackwell praised Sheetz as a good corporate citizen, detailing the company’s holiday gift initiative for underprivileged children.
“By helping this company come to our town, we are inadvertently satisfying part of a Council goal,” Blackwell said. “This looks to be a company that we would like have in Salisbury.”
Company officials did not say when construction would begin.


In other business
Salisbury City Council:
• Recognized the Salisbury High School Football team for winning the North Carolina 2AA Championship, as well as Salisbury High School for winning the Wachovia Cup for best overall sports program in the state among schools its size.
“We value all sports and all teams,” said Principal Windsor Eagle, who also detailed the school’s academic successes.
• Recognized new Food Lion President Cathy Green Burns and the company for winning the U.S. Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, one of 15 in the nation. More than 2,700 companies were nominated.
Food Lion’s efforts for deployed employees include sending care packages, providing home repairs, sending flowers to spouses, allowing employees married to deployed soldiers to transfer to other stores when needed and donating gift and phone cards, Mayor Susan Kluttz said.
Council is proud of Food Lion and appreciates “what a wonderful corporate citizen you are,” Kluttz said.
• Heard 2010 highlights and 2011 goals from the Greenway Committee, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment.
• Established Light Industrial zoning on approximately 26.3 acres at 175 Circle M Drive, the former location of the Rack Room Shoes distribution center and current location of Omnisolv.
• Approved the Eastern Gateway Area Plan, which has support from businesses and residents in the East Innes Street and Faith Road area.
• Heard from mentor Linda Goodman and her 14-year-old mentee, who were paired through the Youth Services Bureau and the Times Two Mentoring Program.
January is National Mentoring Month. Kluttz encouraged residents to become adult mentors. To learn more, go to www.rowanysb.com or call 704-633-5636.
• Recognized Marjorie Gordon for 30 years of volunteer service. Retired from the IRS, Gordon has helped elderly and low-income residents fill out their tax returns since 1977.
She now volunteers are the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site at the Park Avenue Community Center.
Lou Manning, president of the Park Avenue Redevelopment Corporation, said volunteers at the Park Avenue center last year prepared 334 returns, with filers receiving $213,852 in refunds.
Gordon and other certified volunteers will staff the VITA site again this year, serving people with annual incomes of $50,000 or less. The site will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays from Jan. 29 to March 29.
Appointments are required by calling 704-216-7542.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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